Identifying and Treating a Centipede Bite

Centipedes are arthropods belonging to the order Arachnida (Arachnids). They belong to the superfamily Tricholomatidae. There are over 500 species of centipedes worldwide. Most of them have long legs with four pairs of legs each, but some species have short or no legs at all. Some species have three eyes on their head while others only two eyes on their heads. All species of centipedes are poisonous. They have venom glands located under their bodies. Centipedes inject the poison into prey when they strike with their front pair of legs.

The most common type of centipede found in homes is the house centipede (Heteropoda venatoria), which belongs to the family Heteroptera, suborder Hemipepsinae. These species are commonly known as “house centipedes”.

They range in size from 1/4 inch to 2 inches long. Their coloration varies depending on the species. House centipedes are often seen crawling around inside houses and under furniture. They may even be found living near human dwellings where they feed on insects such as flies, mosquitoes, ants and other small arthropods. House centipedes are fast moving creatures. They use their speed to run away from potential predators. If disturbed, they also have the ability to release a foul odor and a yellow fluid from their bodies.

The house centipedes inject venom with their bite. The venom contains toxins that can cause swelling, redness and pain at the site of the bite.

Other symptoms of a bite may include nausea, dizziness and weakness. Bites are very painful and can take several weeks to heal. In some cases they can cause an allergic reaction and the victim should seek emergency medical attention. Those who are bitten may experience other symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea, fever and chills.

Treatment involves cleaning and bandaging the wound. If the bite was from a house centipede, an anti-venom is not needed.

The bite will need to be monitored for infection. It is important to clean the wound with soap and water, apply an antiseptic and cover with a bandage. If there is any possibility that the victim has been bitten by a different type of centipede, it is recommended to seek immediate medical attention.

Due to the bite’s foul odor and toxic properties, it can be distinguished from other insect bites. The location of the bite may provide initial information about the culprit.

The main concern following a centipede bite is an infection due to bacteria in the insect’s mouth. In some cases there can be allergic reactions to the toxin, which may require medical attention.

Fortunately, centipedes are less inclined to attack humans and prefer to escape rather than attack.

House centipedes are carnivores that can kill small insects such as flies, mosquitoes, and ants. They do this by tackling their prey and injecting them with venom.

A female house centipede lays her eggs in the soil, or in cracks and crevices, nearby her habitat. The eggs hatch after seven to twelve days.

Newborn centipedes are white, but later turn a brown or black color. They reach sexual maturity at around two years old. Unlike most other insects, a female centipede may live for up to four years.

Sources & references used in this article:

Epidemiological aspects of centipede (Scolopendromorphae: Chilopoda) bites registered in greater S. Paulo, SP, Brazil by I Knysak, R Martins, CR Bertim – Revista de saude publica, 1998 – SciELO Brasil

Prospective study of centipede bites in Australia by CR Balit, MS Harvey, JM Waldock… – Journal of Toxicology …, 2004 – Taylor & Francis

Features of centipede bites in Taivuan by TJ Lin, CC Yang, GY Yang, J Ger… – Tropical and …, 1995 –

A clinical analysis of 179 cases of centipede bite patients who visited the emergency department in Korea by JH Kwon, SH Seol, SC Choi, GW Kim, HC Yuh… – Journal of The Korean …, 2008 –